This is entry number 269, published on 24 August 2011, of a blog on the Planning Act 2008 infrastructure planning and authorisation regime. Click here for a link to the whole blog.

Today’s entry reports on what recently announced enterprise zones mean for infrastructure.

Last week, the government announced the locations of 11 further 'enterprise zones', bringing the total to 22, one more than was originally proposed.  In fact there are really 23, since Harlow in west Essex and Sandwich in east Kent could hardly be described as a single zone although they are counted as such.  Here is some more information on the background and purpose of enterprise zones (EZs).

Last year the government invited groups of local authorities and businesses to apply to become 'Local Enterprise Partnerships' (LEPs), one of whose roles has been to nominate enterprise zones.  LEPs are one of the measures to replace the regional tier of planning, which is being abolished, albeit that LEPs are not formally recognised in statute.

More LEPs have joined the initial swathe, and there are now 37 of them.  Only nine local authorities in England have not yet joined one - did they choose not to join one or were they not invited?

  • Chiltern
  • East Northamptonshire
  • Elmbridge
  • Epsom and Ewell
  • Runnymede
  • South Bucks
  • Spelthorne
  • Wellingborough
  • Wycombe

On the other hand, 28 local authorities have managed to join more than one LEP.  Perhaps they have spread themselves too thinly, however, as none of the enterprise zones are in their areas:

  • Barnsley
  • Bassetlaw
  • Bolsover
  • Bromsgrove
  • Cannock Chase
  • Cherwell
  • Chesterfield
  • Craven
  • Dacorum
  • East Hampshire
  • East Riding of Yorkshire
  • East Staffordshire
  • Forest Heath
  • Harrogate
  • King's Lynn & West Norfolk
  • Lichfield
  • North East Derbyshire
  • North East Lincolnshire
  • North Hertfordshire
  • Redditch
  • Selby
  • St Edmundsbury
  • Tamworth
  • Test Valley
  • Uttlesford
  • Winchester
  • Wyre Forest
  • York

The full list of Enterprise Zones is as follows - they are on a map on the CLG website here.  The first 11 are the first tranche from March and the second 11 are last week's tranche. Click here to see table.

Some of the enterprise zones are focused on infrastructure: the Humber and Great Yarmouth & Lowestoft zones are to promote offshore renewable energy, the Newquay zone will focus on aerospace, and the North East and Tees Valley zones will focus on low carbon energy.  Most of the others aim to attract high tech businesses of one sort or another.

What actually is an enterprise zone?

Enterprise zones are areas of land varying from 28 hectares (Daresbury) to 375 hectares (Humberside) where a special finance and planning regime applies. The main features of them are that no business rates are payable for businesses moving into the zones until the next election, and that there will be a simplified planning regime, the latter being of particular interest to blog readers.  EZs will also be expected to benefit from superfast broadband connections.

Rather than a common simplified planning regime, the local authority/ies covering each EZ will be expected to create a 'local development order' (LDO), which will automatically grant planning permission for certain changes of use or types of new development.  This is an existing power that is a localised form of 'permitted development'.  Thus each EZ may have a different simplified regime, atlhough the government may produce a model LDO for local authorities to use.  I don't think any LDOs have been developed for any EZs yet, but please let me know if you come across one.

Although infrastructure projects that are above the Planning Act thresholds will not benefit from the LDOs as they already do not need planning permission, related development and below-threshold projects will do so, and all projects will benefit from not paying business rates for a few years.